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The rewards and challenges of biomedical start ups


13 February 2019 – The Peter Doherty Institute

Know your customer, secure your IP and build the right team were strong messages at the latest Melbourne Biomedical Precinct networking event, held in partnership with the BioMelbourne Network. The event, held at the Peter Doherty Institute, attracted an audience of around 200 people hungry to learn the secrets of successful biomedical start-ups.

Key note speaker Professor Mimi Tang, Scientific founder of Prota Therapeutics led the audience through her own experience. Professor Tang left a career spanning 25 years specialising in paediatric allergy healthcare and research to the very different world of venture capital and biotech start up in 2016.

“I really had to change the way I thought and look at this through the eyes of the investor,” Professor Tang said. “I am incredibly passionate about what I do and I know that patients are looking for a sustained long-term treatment, they don’t want to just manage their allergy with allergen avoidance and all the associated risks that come with this approach, they want remission and possible tolerance. This is a compelling proposition for both patient and investor.

“One of the best pieces of advice I can give anyone is to secure your IP early – it’s fundamental to your success as a start-up and that takes planning as well as patience. Having strong IP is what makes your work investable. You need to wait until you get the IP before you publish – publishing before securing protection for your work is a common mistake that is made by researchers. You also have to balance filing your IP as soon as possible with having sufficient data to support your IP.”

Dr Harris Eyre Chief Medical Officer of CNSdose and Dr Liz Williams the Co-founder, Director & Chief Executive Officer of Hemideina joined Professor Tang in a discussion moderated by Dr Krystal Evans, CEO BioMelbourne Network.

Getting the right support team in place is seen as critical to a start-up’s success.

“We worked really hard to get the right people on our board,” said Dr Williams. “Australia does not have an overabundance of specialists in biomedical start-ups, so the good people are in high demand. Using your networks, and groups such as the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct and the BioMelbourne Network can help you identify high calibre advisors.”

“You also need to leverage your connections with folks from diverse areas of expertise,” said Dr Eyre who moved to the US to take his company’s initial product through the commercialisation process. “Texas Medical Center is just like the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct, just on a larger scale. In these precincts you have plentiful access to patients, researchers, executives, investors, mentors and others who can help guide you.”

Alex Kamenev, Deputy Secretary, Precincts and Suburbs in the newly created Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions introduced the panel and highlighted the role that the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct plays in driving cultural change in the sector.

“Government recognises precincts as key to growth in jobs and investment in our state and we know that while we’ve always delivered incredible biomedical research, healthcare and education, we’ve been slower to embrace commercialisation,” he said.  “Now’s the time for the rubber to hit the road and make the most of what we have right here before us and change our thinking to be more commercially focused. It takes courage, like that we see in the panel members before us today to change the thinking and get even greater impact from both an economic, as well as a patient perspective”

The Collaborate+Connect+Commercialise networking series aims to connect industry and the biomedical sector to create greater commercial and patient impact.

Five Key Principles of Commercialisation

  • Identify an unmet need
  • Demonstrate proof of concept
  • Protect your discovery with IP
  • Establish strategic partners/investors
  • Create impact

Source: NHMRC –The How, What, When and How of Commercialisation